News Story

Indiana Democrat: Right-to-Work Bill 'One of the Worst ... In a Generation'

GOP Senator: Dems 'would do anything' to stop right-to-work legislation

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite rumblings to the contrary, one of the leading proponents of right-to-work legislation in Indiana says the effort is far from a done deal. 

State Sen. Jim Banks anticipated the effort would be an uphill battle despite Republicans having a majority in both chambers of the Legislature and a Republican governor. 

“We knew that the other side, representing the leaders of the various unions, would do everything they could to block Indiana from becoming the 23rd right-to-work state in the nation,” Sen. Banks said.

State Rep Scott Pelath, a Democrat from Michigan City, is one of the lawmakers who did not show up for work last week, denying the House of a quorum to vote on a right-to-work bill.

“Right-to-work is one of the worst pieces of policy attempted to be jammed through the Legislature, probably in a generation,” he said. 

Rep. Pelath believes his party has leverage on two fronts — the protests at the capitol and the quorum. He says fellow opponents are not afraid of fines.

“When you’re standing on bedrock principals, it becomes easier to endure those things,” he said.

During last week’s joint House and Senate hearing on Senate Bill 269, opponents raised several arguments, which proponents anticipated. Opponents questioned claims that a right-to work law would improve Indiana’s economy, claiming that favorable statistics from right-to-work states have been taken out of context. Opponents also balk at claims that Indiana has lost business because of unions.

Republican legislators disagree.

“Our economic developers tell us that one out of every three businesses that looks at Indiana and finds out we’re not a right-to-work state, they lose interest,” Sen. Banks said. He also addressed why developers never name those companies, namely fear of union retribution.

Sen. Banks said proponents are pushing the bill on something more fundamental – worker rights.

“It is an ideological issue whether employees should be forced to join a labor union. Period," he said. 

“No one has ever been forced to join a union,” Rep. Pelath countered.

James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says that without a right-to-work law, every employee is forced to pay money to a union, even those who disagree with the union

"This representative is making a distinction without a difference," said Hohman. "Without right-to-work protections, employees are forced to give money to their union regardless of whether they want the union. Whether it’s officially called 'union dues' or anything else is irrelevant."

Sen. Banks said unions do exist in right-to-work states, and employees do support them when they feel the unions are working on their behalf. 

“At the end of the day, unions have to prove their worth,” he said.

Rep. Pelath said he is not fazed that his district hovers on the Michigan state line and could stand to gain defecting Michigan companies interested in a close right-to-work state.

“Of all the things businesses consider in relocating, right-to-work is very far down the list,” he said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.